The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) conducted real-combat military exercise near the Taiwan Strait on Friday, with the country denouncing what it called collusion between Taiwan and the United States.
China claims the island as its own and has made it a pariah with other nations.
Taiwan’s defence ministry said 18 Chinese aircraft were involved in the drill, a far larger number than Taiwan has previously announced for such encounters.
“Sep. 18, two H-6 bombers, eight J-16 fighters, four J-10 fighters and four J-11 fighters crossed the midline of the TaiwanStrait and entered Taiwan’s southwest ADIZ,” the ministry said in an English-language statement on Twitter.
In response, Taiwan scrambled fighter jets as multiple Chinese aircraft buzzed the island.
“ROCAF scrambled fighters, and deployed air defence missile system to monitor the activities,” Taiwan’s defence ministry added, referring to Taiwan’s air force.
The ministry showed a map of the flight paths of the Chinese jets and their crossing of the Taiwan Strait mid-line, which normally combat aircraft from both sides avoid passing through.
Taiwan’s Liberty Times newspaper said Taiwan air force jets scrambled 17 times on Friday morning over four hours, warning China’s air force to stay away.
China’s military exercise coincided with the visit to Taipei, the Taiwanese capital of U.S. Undersecretary for Economic Affairs Keith Krach.
He arrived Taipei on Thursday on a three-day visit. He is the most senior State Department official to come to Taiwan in four decades.
Ren Guoqiang, spokesperson for Chinese Ministry of National Defense, said the military exercise is a necessary move aimed at the current situation in the Taiwan Strait to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Reiterating that Taiwan is an inalienable part of China, Ren said the Taiwan question is purely China’s internal affairs and allows no outside interference.
The United States and the Democratic Progressive Party authority in Taiwan have recently intensified their collusion, often creating troubles, Ren said.
“Those who play with fire will get burnt,” Ren said.
The PLA has the firm will, abundant confidence, and enough capabilities to thwart any interference by foreign forces or “Taiwan independence” activities, Ren added.
Beijing has watched with growing alarm the ever-closer relationship between Taipei and Washington, and has stepped up military exercises near the island, including two days of mass air and sea drills last week.
Taiwan is a purely internal Chinese affair that brooks no foreign interference, Ren added.
Hu Xijin, editor of China’s widely read state-backed Global Times tabloid, wrote on his Weibo microblog that the drills were preparation for an attack on Taiwan should the need arise, and that they were valuable experience, enabling gathering of intelligence about Taiwan’s defensive systems.
“If the U.S. secretary of state or defence secretary visits Taiwan, People’s Liberation Army fighters should fly over Taiwan island, and directly exercise in the skies above it,” he added.
China had threatened to make a “necessary response” to Krach’s trip, straining already poor ties between Beijing and both Taipei and Washington.
Sino-U.S. relations have plummeted ahead of November’s U.S. presidential election.
Chinese fighter jets briefly crossed the mid-line of the Taiwan Strait last month as the U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar was in Taipei, and last week China carried out two days of large-scale drills off Taiwan’s southwestern coast.
The United States, like most countries, only has official ties with China, not Taiwan, though Washington is the island’s main arms supplier and most important international backer.
This week, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations had lunch with Taiwan’s top envoy in New York. China’s U.N. mission said it had lodged “stern representations” over the meeting.
*Source Xinhua and Reuters/NAN